Shirley Douglas, the mother of actor Kiefer Sutherland and ex-wife of Donald Sutherland, passed away on the morning of April 5. She was 86.
Kiefer Sutherland revealed the news on Twitter Sunday afternoon, writing, “Early this morning my mother, Shirley Douglas, passed away due to complications surrounding pneumonia (not related to COVID19).”
He continued, “My mother was an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life. Sadly she had been battling for her health for quite some time and we, as a family, knew this day was coming. To any families who have lost loved ones unexpectedly to the Coronavirus, my heart breaks for you. Please stay safe.”
Douglas Had a Distinguished Acting Career
Douglas was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, in 1934. Her father, Tommy Douglas, was a well-known Canadian statesman and the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party. In 2013, Douglas said of her dad, “He was such a great speaker. He knew how to start off being funny, to get them settled, then he would get serious and lay out all the problems and then he would offer the hope, the solution.”
She continued, “He was never sentimental. He was tough … It was great theatre long before I ever knew what theatre was.”
Douglas studied at the Banff School of Fine Arts and went on to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
A respected stage and film actress, Douglas appeared in a number of notable projects, including Wind at My Back, The Stone Angel, The Silver Surfer and Flash Gordon. She also worked with famed directors Stanley Kubrick and David Cronenberg. In 1997, Douglas appeared with her son in a stage production of The Glass Menagerie.
In 2013, Rick Mercer described Douglas as one of the greatest actresses Canada has ever produced.
Reflecting on her time in the theater, Douglas told The Star, “… I loved coming to rehearsal. It’s a place that’s accepting of whoever you are, whatever age you are. I found a home there.”
Over the course of her lifetime, the actress received a number of accolades for her work, including the Gemini Award in 2000 for her work in Shadlow Lake and the International Achievement Award in 2000.
She Was Married to Donald Sutherland for 4 Years
Douglas was married to Donald Sutherland from 1966 to 1970.
Speaking to The Star in 2013, she remained tight-lipped about their time together, simply stating, “Well, we moved to Los Angeles, we lived there a while …”
During that time, Douglas was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the campaign against Vietnam. She helped establish the group “Friends of the Black Panthers” — a decision that sparked controversy, as Douglas was subsequently denied a US work permit.
In 1969, she was arrested and spent five days in prison for “conspiracy to possess unregistered explosives.” Douglas was eventually exonerated.
Together, she and Donald had twins, Kiefer and Rachel. Rachel is a TV production manager and is currently working on the TV series Nurses.
Douglas also had one son, Thomas, from her first marriage.